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center depicts the three root delusions (sometimes termed cardinal faults or
mental poisons) that set and keep the Wheel in motion. They are responsible
for all suffering and include: (1) greed or attachment (represented by the pig),
(2) hatred (represented by the snake), and (3) ignorance or delusion (represented
by the rooster). Buddha said, "Consumed by craving, enraged by hatred,
blinded by delusion, overwhelmed and despairing, man contemplates his own downfall,
that of others, and both together."
Lord of Death, Yama, turns the Wheel of Life, holding it firmly in the clutches
of his teeth and claws. This symbolizes the inevitability of death and the impermanence
of all existence.
of the Twelve Links of Dependent Origination: Arising from grasping is existence
or becoming. Here a man and women are shown making love; they are controlled
by sensory pleasures which have arisen from grasping. At this time, consciousness
(with all of its imprints) unites with the sperm and egg of the parents and
a new human life arises.
of the Twelve Links of Dependent Origination: From desire arises grasping
or clinging to the object of desire. This is depicted on the wheel by a man
(or monkey) picking fruit (object of desire) from a tree.
This sector represents actions or karma. Here people are
moving upward toward the realms of gods, demi-gods and humans as a result
of virtuous actions.
This sector represents actions or karma. Here people are
moving downward toward the realms of animals, hungry ghosts and hell beings
as a result of non-virtuous actions.
One of the three Higher Realms: This sector represents the
realm of gods. Here happiness replaces suffering, but this is a temporary
existence. Once their karma is exhausted, gods will leave this realm and
return to the cycle of birth, suffering, old age, and death.
One of the three Higher Realms: This is the realm of humans
characterized by birth, sickness, old age and death. This state of suffering
is caused by human faults (hatred, attachment and delusion) controlling
behavior. The human realm is the most important since it is the only one
where behavior can be controlled and therefore the path to Enlightnment
The moon represents liberation. Notice Buddha is pointing
toward the moon, suggesting following the Path which he revealed is the
source of liberation.
Buddha is pointing toward the moon (symbol of liberation)
suggesting that following the Path he revealed is the means to transcend
the Ocean of Samsara (the cycle of rebirth, sickness, old age and death)
and reach the state of Enlightenment.
One of the three Lower Realms: This is the realm of hungry
ghosts, beings with bloated bellies and long skinny necks who are obsessed
with their own needs. Humans dictated by greed are relegated to this realm.
Here beings are constantly thirsty and hungry. However, their hunger and
thirst can never be extinguished because they perceive food and water as
pus and blood and are therefore in a constant state of denial and dissatisfaction.
One of the three Lower Realms: This is the realm of hell
beings. A world characterized by extremes of heat and cold. This represents
the conditions of anger (heat) and cold-hearted hatred (freezing). Beings
here are in a state of constant emotional turmoil and are thus tormented
as they are tossed back and forth between the extreme states of temperature.
One of the three Lower realms: This is the animal realm.
It is characterized by a degree of ignornace and behavior dictated by basal
instincts (food, sex, etc.). Beings here are easily exploited and are often
used by humans as food, clothing or instruments of work or entertainment.
When humans are not present, animals usually live in extreme conditions
of either hot (desert) or cold (tundra or ice caps).
One of the three Higher Realms: This is the realm of the
demigods. Although the environment is rather tranquil, jealousy is a source
of torment. Demigods are in competition with each other, comparing their
situation with those around them, usually feeling cheated and deserving
One of the Twelve Links of Dependent Origination: A blind
man with a cane represents our ignorance of the true nature of all
phenomena, impelling us to reinforce and preserve a false notion of self.
One of the Twelve Links of Dependent Origination: The potter
molding pots represents the fact that we shape our own destiny by our actions
(karma). Each pot represents a karmic imprint on our consciousness
created through our actions, speech or thoughts.
One of the Twelve Links of Dependent Origination: The monkey
aimlessly climbing a tree represents the mind (or consciousness)
of the ignorant which, similar to the monkey, wanders randomly and out of
One of the Twelve Links of Dependent Origination: Consciousness
(the preceding link) gives rise to name and form, inseparable spiritual
and physical energies which accompany us from one life to the next. They
are represented by people in a boat drifting on the stream of life.
One of the Twelve Links of Dependent Origination: From name
and form arises the six senses (or sense spheres), as recognized
by the Buddha: sight (eye), smell (nose), taste (tongue), hearing (ear)
touch (body), and thought (mind). On the Wheel, the senses are represented
by a large, empty house. The empty house with its doors and windows represents
our developing sensory organs.
One of the Twelve Links of Dependent Origination: From the
six senses arises contact with the world (symbolized on the wheel
by lovers embracing). Objects are discriminated as either pleasurable, neutral,
or unpleasurable due to the interaction of the object, with the senses
and conditioned consciousness.
One of the Twelve Links of Dependent Origination: Feelings
arise from contact. An arrow piercing the eye is used to represent the strength
of feelings, often blinding an individual. Feelings are interpreted as either
pleasurable, neutral, or unpleasurable. We avoid the unpleasant and seek
One of the Twelve Links of Dependent Origination: From feelings
arises desire or attachment. This is represented by a couple falling
in love (or a man drinking alcohol).
One of the Twelve Links of Dependent Origination: A natural,
inevitable consequence of any life is aging and death. An old man
burdened by a great weight is the graphic representation of this stage.
Once death is realized, the beginingless and endless cycle of suffering
know as samsara starts yet again. Of course, this would be a pessimistic
view if it were not for the fact that the Buddha stands serenely and majestically
outside of the Wheel demonstrating that the remedy is in the Path that he
One of the Twelve Links of Dependent Origination: Arising
from sensual contact is birth -- a new life entering the human realm.
On the Wheel this is represented by a women giving birth.